Friday, January 31, 2020

Loose Feathers #734

Pine Grosbeak / USFWS Photo
Birds and birding news
  • Albatrosses equipped with radar detectors are being used to track illegal fishing that might otherwise go undetected. Out of 353 ships that albatrosses detected, only 253 had the required transponders turned on.
  • A study looked at the relationship between parasites and nestling size in Tree Swallows.
  • New technologies and building materials could save billions of birds from fatal window strikes.
  • Snow Buntings are widespread through the northern U.S. in winter. Here is a guide to finding and identifying them.
  • Wildfires burned through over 50% of the habitat for the northern and central populations of Superb Lyrebird. Albert's Lyrebird and some owl species also lost significant portions of their habitats.
  • Volunteers conducted the North and South Abaco CBCs this winter for the first time since Hurricane Dorian devastated the island. Birds fared better on the south end of the island, but both counts were lower than usual.
Science and nature blogging
Biodiversity and conservation
  • Orchids are among the most difficult plants to protect because of their popularity among collectors as well as the difficulty of raising them for reintroduction. Now 32 orchid species are feared extinct in Bangladesh alone. 
  • Insects and other invertebrates may be among the hardest-hit animals in the Australian wildfires because of the way that complete habitats were burned.
  • One invertebrate that did survive is the bright pink Mount Kaputar Slug.
  • Australian conservationists are encouraging people to document the plants and wildlife they see in burned areas using iNaturalist.
  • Rising acidity in the Pacific is causing the shells of Dungeness crabs to dissolve.
  • Here is a review of the current state of the Everglades, which is threatened by rising sea levels, development, and invasive species.
  • Cape Town is trying to manage conflicts between its residents and the baboons that enter the city from the nearby Table Mountain National Park.
  • Brazilian entomologists discovered a new, brilliantly-colored species of sharpshooter, a type of planthopper, in southeastern Brazil.
  • Bolivian Cochran Frogs have been rediscovered after not being seen for 18 years.
  • Iridescence may be a counterintuitive form of camouflage. Even though the elytra of jewel beetles are shiny, birds seem to have trouble picking them out.
  • Dragonflies and damselflies have similar neural wiring that makes them effective predators but attack prey in different ways. Damselflies attack prey in front of them, while dragonflies seize prey from below.
  • Purple coneflowers are among the many plants that flourish in the aftermath of fires. In their case it seems to be that they get more attention from pollinators after fires.
Climate change and environmental politics
  • The Trump administration is seeking to codify its weakened enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This would essentially legalize all sorts of "incidental" bird killing, from hunters shooting endangered Whooping Cranes to large flocks of waterbirds landing in toxic retention ponds.
  • A Mexican conservationist, Homero Gómez González, was found dead after being missing for two weeks. The cause of death is unclear, but it is likely to be related to his work protecting wintering Monarchs from illegal logging. 
  • Scientists measured extremely warm water temperatures beneath the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica, which is already melting and contributing to sea level rise.
  • Communities in Pennsylvania have been dealing with contaminated water since a spill related to the Mariner East pipeline, which carries natural gas from fracking sites.
  • A federal appeals court upheld the designation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.

  • A newly-installed portion of the border wall fell over due to high winds.
  • Colombian environmentalists are unhappy with their government over a variety of issues, from continuing deforestation to fracking and extractive industries to violence against environmental and social leaders.
  • Murphy signed an executive order committing New Jersey to a goal of 100% clean energy by 2050 as well as updating land-use regulations to account for sea level rise. Most of the details still have to be filled in, however. 
  • There is a proposal to make either the endangered Little Brown Bat or the Big Brown Bat the official state mammal of Washington, DC.